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24 Strange Things About the Universe: Part 2

August 22, 2014

This is the first picture that we got from our CCD deep space camera. Were we ever lucky! We pointed and we shot, and this is what came out. It’s a gas cloud, about 5,000 light years away. Its connection to a swan is not clear, except that we have found that many preschoolers can see the resemblance right away, while older people miss it.

Credit: Larry Ames and Jonathan Weis at the Perkin Observatory Dublin School

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Our August 18 post on the Everything Almanac blog was filled with strange and amazing facts about the universe! In case your mind isn’t blown yet, here is part two of “24 Strange Things About the Universe,” from the all-new 2015 Old Farmer’s Almanac!

24 Strange Things About the Universe: Part 2

13. The universe is expanding, but no one knows how far. It has no outside or edge. The extent of the known universe is 38 to 47 billion light-years in every direction.

14. When observed in desert skies far from any other city, there seem to be millions of stars visible to the naked eye. (The naked eye limit is about magnitude 5.8.) However, the actual number is about 2,600. You could count every star in 20 minutes at a leisurely rate of about two per second.

15. The nuclear fusion that produces the Sun’s heat and light occurs in its innermost quarter, a tiny “sun within the Sun.” The surface we see is merely where the energy escapes.
16. The largest storm in the known universe is Jupiter’s Great Red Spot, a hurricane that is three times the width of Earth and floats 5 miles above Jupiter’s surface.

17. Galileo was the first person to see Saturn’s rings, but his telescopes were so poor that he believed to his dying day that the rings were attached handles, like those on a teacup.

18. In addition to white, stars are colored red, orange, blue, violet, yellow, brown, even black. The single missing hue is green.

19. The fastest twirling objects in the universe are pulsars (tiny stars). Since 1982, some 200 have been discovered. The fastest-spinning of these turns 716 times per second. (The second fastest spins 614 times per second.) From a pulsar’s surface, other stars would appear not as dots but as white lines in the sky.

20. The first of a new type of celestial object—asteroids—was discovered on January 1, 1801.

21. Neptune has the strongest winds in the solar system. Its air howls at 1,300 miles per hour, four times faster than Earth’s fiercest tornadoes.

22. The universe’s second most abundant element, helium, is the only one that never freezes solid.

23. Half of the Moon is composed of a single element, the same one that makes up two-thirds of your body weight: oxygen.

24. After the Moon is struck by a meteoroid or falling spacecraft, it vibrates for hours.

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